Still, after some days, the impression of empty yards and vandalism being seen everywhere dominates my thoughts. I was guided by a property manager through a troubled area in my hometown.
The visit was part of an initiative, with the aim to coordinate different communities, religious, non-governmental and governmental to make another effort of social cohesion.
It was not my first visit, but this time I came closer. Together with a friend and collegue we met people in the stairs and elevators where people piss and shit. The smell was unbearable. Tracks of urine was seen regardless of which floor we were on.
An elderly upset woman described how it is to live in the misery. She was on her way to her 94-year-old mother on the stairs where the drugdealers hangout. She cried when she told us about the threats against her old mother.
The fright keeps the inhabitants indoor. If they go out, it will be before the criminal world of brutality wakes up. It was around 2 PM. Only young men where seen. It was said that they waited for a drug dealer. Like many others these persons were on heavy drugs. A reality that is normal in the daily life of many children and families in this part of town.
An apartment we visited was recently emptied. Three rooms and a kitchen was inhabited by 9 persons, refugees. It was obvious that the were poor. It was a tough sight. Seeing the emptyness, the poverty.
Spring came late this year. The sun was shining. Children, close to their mothers, played in the yard. It was silent. I was looking up the high building. None was seen on the balcony. The window curtains were closed and the blinds folded. No one looked out and called out someone’s name.
Yesterday I was moderating a discussion at a muslim cultural center in Malmö. Among the participants there were people born in Sweden or in the Middle East and other places far from Scandinavia. A majority of the audience, mostly young women and men, saw their first daylight in a Swedish home. Some of them were raised up in families with parents who fled from turbulent political circumstances, oppression and poverty. Almost everyone attending the meeting have realtives living in countries outside Europe.
This crowd concentrated on Islam as an important contributor of culture and values to the local social life. The definition of muslim culture was certainly not an easy task, and the participants underlined different aspects. One mentioned that the definition must be fluid, depending on the surrounding enviroment and on the personal point of view. Another speaker stressed the importance of islamic esthetics and the inspiration that can be found in the Quran, with a clear exhortation to seek for beauty and truth.
The search for beauty and truth have nothing to do with escapism or a superficial way of life. Islamic calligraphy and other sacred artistic works can inspire people to make them aware of how fragile life is and what a resource there is in man. A resource that can make ruins turn into a palace.
I am very thankful to those who claim the importance of beauty and truth in arts, and I am not surprised that our muslim sisters and brothers are reminding us about the arts true value.
Once a year my wife and I go to London, visiting family. Beside long walks, including meals and drinks, we experience different exhibitions at galleries and museums. The National Portrait Gallery is a favourite. A good artist invites the audience to explore more than what is visible. At the gallery masterpieces are easily found. Pieces that have various meanings, and a depth that makes the well known face become a part the observers own personality, familiar and unknown on the same time.
On an unusually cold Sunday morning we went to Saint Martin in the Fields, a church few meters from Trafalgar square and the gallery. Men, like dark shadows, were sitting and laying on black benches. The room was warm and welcoming. The grey daylight couldn’t reach the resting men. They were placed in the corners and under the big windows. One could hardly see them. But it was possible to hear them. Snore! Like children, that finally feel safe and can get some rest. The church was warmed up because of the homeless men. It was a nice gesture.
Ambiguity is a quality in art. Like in real life nothing interesting can be easily defined. More important, no human being is unambiguous. Not the rich. Not the poor and homeless.
Margarethe von Trotta’s latest film Hannah Arendt is disturbing in a positive way. It makes us aware of where our society is heading. Though we live in democracies, one can feel that the anxiety grows. People seems to be intensly more afraid of having the “wrong” opinions. Espacially in issues that matters and demand a personal reflection. I’m thinking of religion, arts and politics. We should be grateuful to von Trotta and her worthseeing film about a very important political theorist.
At my childhoods playground, in the shadow of the watchtowers, someone tried to make me redundant. That’s happening to refugees today! In wealthy communities! Perhaps especially there?
Where are the redundant? Everywhere? Nowhere? When we see them, we see our disgrace!